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US State Department claims China and Russia conspiring to rewrite coronavirus narrative

Jack Burton



PHOTO: Getty Images

The US yesterday accused China and Russia of cooperating to spread false claims the Covid-19 pandemic, claiming Beijing is increasingly adopting techniques perfected by Moscow. Lea Gabrielle, coordinator of the US State Department’s Global Engagement Centre, which tracks foreign propaganda, told reporters:

“Even before the Covid-19 crisis we assessed a certain level of coordination between Russia and the People’s Republic of China in the realm of propaganda. But with this pandemic the cooperation has accelerated rapidly.”

“We see this convergence as a result of what we consider to be pragmatism between the two actors who want to shape public understanding of the Covid pandemic for their own purposes”

The Global Engagement Centre has publicly said that thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts are spreading conspiracies about the pandemic, including that the virus, first detected last year in the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, was created by the USs.

There has been plenty of finger pointing and diplomatic bickering, and China outraged the US when a foreign ministry spokesman tweeted a conspiracy that the US military brought the virus to Wuhan. China in turn has posted numerous videos mocking the US’ disastrous reaction to the pandemic.

The two countries eventually reached an informal rhetorical truce in late March after telephone talks between President Donald Trump and his counterpart Xi Jinping, but tensions are soaring again as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushes the theory that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory, a stance that Beijing calls “disinformation.”

Both the World Health Organisation, the US government’s top epidemiologist Dr Anthony Fauci, the international Five Eyes intelligence network and numerous epidemiologists, say there is no evidence and it is scientifically highly unlikely that the virus came from a lab, with most scientists saying it emerged at a Wuhan meat market that butchered exotic animals.

China’s ambassador to the US recently bemoaned what he says is an effort to brand “objective facts as disinformation and propaganda.”

“Behind the mind-set of ‘always blame China’ is a kind of dirty politics, championed by a few people who shift the spotlight for political gain.”

President Xi on Friday discussed cooperation over the pandemic in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Russia opposes the attempts by some forces to use the epidemic as a pretext to blame China and will stand firmly by China’s side.”

The two countries often find common ground and clash with the US on issues from Venezuela to the use of economic sanctions and disarmament. According to the Global Engagement Centre, China has ramped up its online campaign to defend its handling of the pandemic, which has killed some 276,000 people worldwide, and criticise the US.

“Beijing is adapting in real time and increasingly using techniques that have long been employed by Moscow”

“I think there are some examples where we have basically seen a narrative pushed out by a state actor then repeated by another one. So we’re certainly seeing them bounce off of each other and essentially play together in the information space.”

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | WION


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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